A visit to Pest Free Banks Peninsula

December 7, 2022 12:59 pm

Kaitōrete is a narrow peninsula that juts out to the south of Banks Peninsula, between Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere and the Pacific Ocean. A small gravel bank that runs between the Kaitōrete and Fisherman’s Point in Southbridge is moved aside by diggers four times a year to allow the waters to mingle.

At first glance it looks flat and bare; scrubby paddocks with the occasional shelter belt of Norfolk Pines. But look closer and there is more going on. Banded dotterels nest in dunes at the far end, scarab beetles scuttle and different types of flightless moth – a taonga species, that live nowhere else in New Zealand- waft through the grasses. By night, feral cats, stoats, ferrets and weasels snack on any unfortunate loners, and hedgehogs munch through lizards and eggs.

Land ownership is a jigsaw of Rūnanga land, farmland, scientific reserve, council, Crown and privately-owned. But one thing everyone agrees on is the need to remove predators and other pests.

As Sarah Wilson, Project Lead, Pest Free Banks Peninsula explained, “Kaitōrete is the first place we started the intensive trapping and monitoring work needed for elimination, because the community asked us to be involved.”

“The audacious goal is to eliminate six pest species – hedgehogs, feral cats, the 3 mustelids and possums. To do that we need a wide range of traps, because a little female weasel doesn’t weigh enough to trigger a DOC 200 trap, but a Holden trap with some careful tweaking works a treat.”

Our visit starts partway along Kaitōrete, with a presentation from Linda Falwasser, Chief Executive Officer of Tāwhaki. This joint venture is a unique partnership between two Rūnanga and the Crown to manage 1000 hectares. Te Taumutu Rūnunga and Wairewa Rūnunga have come together to form Kaitōrete Limited, and with the Crown, have set out to heal and rejuvenate the land, as well as explore opportunities to advance Aotearoa’s aerospace industry.

Tāwhaki plans to start by asking mana whenua about their aspirations for the land, whether it be the ability to restore traditional food-gathering practices, rejuvenate taonga species, remove farming, or any other environmental, social and economic benefits.

By building a relationship with Tāwhaki, Pest Free Banks Peninsula will be ready to help them achieve the pest free goals that flow from their environmental vision for the land. It is exciting to see our predator free projects supporting mana whenua aspirations for such a special area.

We pile back in the utes and eventually pull up at the Black Hut, the only structure at the western end of Kaitōrete, for a packed lunch and an overview of Pest Free Banks Peninsula. Tim Sjoberg, Senior Team Leader, talks us through the different tools they use to tackle the wide range of predators. David Miller, Chair of Pest Free Banks Peninsula Management Group and Mark Christensen, Chair of Pest Free Banks Peninsula Oversight Group can testify to how special Banks Peninsula is overall, and how committed the landowners are – testimony to the overall approach of “community led and agency supported”.

Sarah Wilson finishes by saying “We’re all out here together, we can be stronger together”.

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